Saturday, June 23, 2018
Sports

WNBA 'changed everything' for girls hoops

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset, N.Y., all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

"I didn't have that," said Bird, who is in her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. "There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four.

"The WNBA changed everything," said Bird who starred at UConn. "It started in 1997, and I graduated from high school in 1998. My high school class was the first one to know during the college recruiting process to know there was the option to play professional basketball, to know that the WNBA was there and to know I better pick a school that is going to help me get to the next level. It changed everything."

Yes, it did. And when the WNBA opened its 20th season this weekend, that's its most important legacy.

Nineteen years into the league, and there has been a lot of talk about what the league has yet to do in terms of raising attendance and establishing itself as more than just a niche sport. Yet, the very fact that the league has been around for two decades providing a positive role model for all girls, not just aspiring pro players, is something with an importance that is difficult to overstate.

"Achievement and performance in America, it's hard to top that right," said Mary Joe Kane of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. "For your girls to see that, it sends a very powerful message."

Bird's new teammate, Breanna Stewart whom the Storm took out of Connecticut with the No. 1 overall pick in May, cannot remember a time when a pro women's league didn't exist. And that is exactly what the league's founders were hoping 20 years ago.

Before the WNBA, there had been at least 15 attempts to start a women's professional sports league, beginning in the 1970s, according to Val Ackerman, the WNBA's commissioner for its first eight seasons.

"We were well aware that this had been a graveyard, littered with the tombstones of women's pro leagues that had failed," Ackerman said. "So we were determined to be the league that made it this time. We knew longevity was going to be a goal."

Bird said it's great that for teammates like Stewart that this is the only world they have ever known. "And," Bird said, "that's having an impact ... because the talent level just gets better and better." — Newsday (TNS)

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again, 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again, 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG – A strong start by Wilmer Font, a team effort by the bullpen and big hits by rookie infielders Willy Adames and Jake Bauers led the Rays to a second straight win over the Yankees on Saturday, 4-0.In what was supposed to be anoth...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and unresolved discrepancies to the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that led to him facing a three-game suspension to start the upcoming season.The Bucs won't commen...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Updated: 4 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

UPDATE, 2:38: Clarifying what was a communication error with the team PR staff, Rays manager Kevin Cash said LHP Blake Snell was slated for an extra day's rest all along and will face the Nationals on Monday not the Yankees on Sunday. The Rays will u...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Published: 06/22/18
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Published: 06/22/18
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Published: 06/22/18